Severe obstructive sleep apnea: sleepy versus nonsleepy patients

Laryngoscope. 2010 Mar;120(3):643-8. doi: 10.1002/lary.20758.


Objectives/hypothesis: To compare demographic and polysomnographic data of sleepy versus nonsleepy severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) patients according to the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS).

Study design: Retrospective cohort.

Methods: Six hundred forty-four consecutive severe (apnea-hypopnea index [AHI] >or= 30) adult OSA patients who underwent a polysomnographic evaluation in our sleep disorders unit. ESS data were available in 569 (88.3%). Three hundred twenty-seven (57.5%) patients had ESS > 10.

Results: Sleepy severe OSA patients are slightly younger and more obese than nonsleepy patients. These sleepy patients have shorter sleep latency and lower percentage of slow wave sleep. They consistently show a higher AHI, both supine and lateral AHI, have a higher number of short arousals, and a higher arousal index. They also have higher snoring loudness in the supine and both lateral positions and a lower minimal SaO(2) in rapid eye movement and non-rapid eye movement sleep. After adjusting for confounders, a logistic regression model points to apnea index as a significant prognostic factor for excessive daytime sleepiness.

Conclusions: Severe OSA sleepy patients have a syndrome that is significantly more severe than nonsleepy patients. Sleepy patients have worse sleep-related breathing parameters, and their sleep patterns are lighter and more fragmented than nonsleepy patients. Apnea index appears as an important prognostic factor for excessive daytime sleepiness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Polysomnography
  • Prognosis
  • ROC Curve
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology